34 Free WordPress Theme Frameworks and Starter Themes (With A Comparison Chart)
WordPress offers a huge space for creativity and flexibility when designing and developing new websites.
Any type of website can be built on top of it: from blogs to newspapers, corporate websites to landing pages and even social networks. All you need is a theme coded to handle that functionality.
Yes, WordPress theme development. That is an easy process for experienced hands who knows the capabilities of the application and familiar with its functions and "not too hard" for others.
To simplify developing new themes, there are awesome WordPress theme frameworks and starter themes that you can use as a base for skipping the repetitive steps and begin with an optimized playground.
Here are the 34 free and good-quality ones that will save your time from searching them. And, in the bottom, you can find a comparison table for these WordPress theme frameworks.
The main power of this framework is its extremely clean WordPress code output, clean head and URLs (even for the head, CSS and JS paths).
Upon its activation, it automatically applies many useful customizations (like creating a homepage, defining the permalink structure, etc.).
It is a theme aimed at helping you build simple, uncluttered, useable, and mobile-friendly websites.
Skeleton has styling for typography and form elements + includes simple tabs and accordions.
The theme is based on and inspired from Skeleton Responsive Boilerplate, Theme Options Framework, Thematic Framework, Formalize and TwentyTen Theme.
P.S. There are also optional styles for bbPress and Jigoshop.
Bones is a theme following the mobile first approach that has a detailed + organized CSS, in-depth documentation with tutorials and details on every level.
There are 3 versions:
- HTML version for projects
Many useful features exist including page navi, breadcrumbs, related posts and HTML5 video with fallback.
Gantry has a detailed admin interface with 65 base widget positions and 38 layout combinations that provide a huge space for customization.
There are lots of built-in features including the CSS and JS compression, speed-optimized codebase, several widgets and gizmos such as font-sizer, Google Analytics, to-top smooth slider, IE6 warning message, etc.
Starkers is a completely naked WordPress theme built to be a starting point for theme designers.
It’s a stripped-back version of the ‘Twenty Ten’ theme that is bundled with each WordPress download.
The theme is based on YUI Reset and it is totally unstyled.
Wonderflux is a solid, easy to update and flexible platform you can use for any WordPress project.
It has location-aware template parts that allow you to concentrate on the content, not the code.
The framework comes with a fully dynamic CSS grid system, simple administration controls and over 100 display hooks.
It can almost be used out-of-the-box. There are 2 widget areas; sidebar and footer and 2 menus (top navigation menu and footer information menu). Also works with bbPress 2.0.
Thematic is a good option for using as-is or as a blank WordPress theme for development.
There are built-in with styles for popular plugins and many theme filters + hooks are available.
The theme has 13 widget areas + multiple layout options and it is strongly advised to use a child theme for customization.
Whiteboard focuses on simplicity and includes only the core WP functionality.
it supports WordPress features such as manageable menus, background, and header image besides featured images, several widget areas, and more.
The framework uses LESS for mobile support and responsive outputs. The code is lightweight + well-commented and there is support for child themes.
The big thing that separates this PressWork from others is its unique front-end editor.
Google fonts selector is integrated to this front-end editor to easily select your fonts. A PSD file is included to customize the design and it has 2 widget + 2 menu areas.
The Constellation theme is a great base for any WordPress-powered website.
It has the styles for creating responsive pages, has a HTML5 code and comes with a flexible grid system.
The theme is based on the HTML5 Boilerplate.
This theme is an HTML5-powered version of the default WordPress TwentyTen theme.
It is cleanly coded, using the theme and integrating new features on it is pretty easy.
There are several important stuff behind Elastic: a visual theme editor, a theme engine, and a set of protocols that link these two.
It aims to bring a new approach to editing and creating themes which both developers and end-users will find easy to work with.
Flexible is a carefully-coded child theme of the default Twenty Ten theme and built-with any browser size in mind.
It has a Facebook FanGate integration and packed with Themekit (which is a plugin for plain simple customization via WordPress editor).
WP Paintbrush comes with a built in front-end editor that enables anyone willing to quickly create a unique design for their website.
The editor has a drag 'n' drop interface for placing theme sections, comes with fixed or fluid layouts and much more.
mimoYmima has implemented an improved body tag that includes many valuable information about the page loaded.
There are smart sidebar disabling methods which could come handy, several @font-face examples and dynamic sidebar + custom template examples packaged with the framework
The code is commented clearly for easing the production process and it uses Modernizr + HTML5 reset css
Gantry is based on 960.gs.
This framework has many custom widget areas, widgets, hooks, shortcodes, page templates and many options to easily customize your website.
It is being improved continuously and has a community growing around it.
This blank theme focuses on making a solid HTML5 compatible starting point for WordPress theme development.
It also has some additional features such as built-in analytics and starter CSS declarations for basic WP elements.
HTML5 Reset is based on digwp.com's Blank WordPress Theme, Modernizr and HTML5 Reset.
The framework has many SEO features including breadcrumbs and jQuery improvements such as comments form validation, SuperSleight for IE6, superfish menus or jBreadcrumb.
It is also compatible with many plugins and fully localized, ready for translation.
This framework includes useful options such as free icons, typography, breadcrumbs and form designs.
There are also multiple post formats to ease theme customizations.
It has support for widgets, child themes and comes with a clean code.
This one may not count as a framework, but it is an almost-naked starter theme with many useful features such as cleaner head code, integrated analytics, support for menus, post formats and custom post types.
The theme also has a widget-ready sidebar and dashboard.
Handcrafted WP is based on Toolbox Starter theme and HTML5 Boilerplate.
If you want to make your own theme and want it to be ready for HTML5, ToolBox may satisfy your needs.
It is a blank theme in plain and semantic HTML5 markup with almost no CSS.
This is a WordPress theme using HTML5 Boilerplate and based on Thematic ToolBox (and other Thematic themes).
H5 includes a full pack of theme files and folders with each file having all the latest WordPress functionality.
It is built with easy customization and personalization in mind and serves as a solid starting point for your next HTML-5-based theme.
This theme has no layout and styling except the modified version of Eric Meyer’s reset CSS and a baseline typography.
Although it is such a plain theme, it is built with HTML5, WAI-ARIA in mind and supports hCard + hAtom microformats.
This theme is the combination of Starkers + the 1140 CSS Grid and great for anyone looking for a responsive naked theme.
Indeziner is a starting point for creating websites using WordPress with no hassle.
It has a fully customizable homepage, almost every section can be enabled/disabled and bundled with a slideshow, gallery page and Flickr integration.
Blank Themes offer 1, 2, 3 column blank themes to start from with the variations of sidebar locations.
There is also a blank portfolio theme that can be easily customized and used for your own portfolio.
rtPanel has a developer centric framework which is useful for developers willing to tweak codes with hooks and functions.
The framework also provides control over content and design for anyone who is not so familiar with coding and web-development.
Sandbox and various other themes from plaintxt.org provide a strong and clean structure with rich semantic classes powered by dynamic functions and microformats.
The themes are minimal and can be good starting points for new themes.
Suffusion is a cross-browser theme with a bunch of options.
It has 19 widget areas, one/two/three column, fixed-width and flexible-width formats, 10 pre-defined templates, 18 pre-defined color schemes, 2 customizable multi-level drop-down menus, featured posts, a magazine layout, tabbed sidebars, widgets for Twitter, social networks, Google Translate and more.
Foundation is a blank starter theme that has all the core features needed to creating a new theme.
StartBox is a theme framework that makes rapid web development and WP theme creation simple for both designers and developers.
It comes pre-loaded with customizable theme options, several widget-ready areas and custom widgets, 6 pre-defined layouts and a comprehensive documentation.
Yoko is a modern three-column blog theme and it comes with a custom social links widget and shortcodes for text columns, info boxes and highlighted text.
It also provides various post formats and uses Google Web Fonts.
Comparison Of WordPress Theme Frameworks
|HTML5||Responsive||Mobile||SEO||Admin Int.||Micro formats||IE Hacks||Basic Styles|
|H5 Theme Template|
|Brave New World|
|1140 Fluid Starkers|